US consumers draw back support of causes

NEW YORK: US consumers are doing less to support societal causes because of the unsteady economy, according to Edelman's 2012 "goodpurpose" study.

NEW YORK: US consumers are doing less to support societal causes because of the unsteady economy, according to Edelman's 2012 "goodpurpose" study. However, consumers in other parts of the world are giving more generously.  

The study found that 82% of US consumers were affected by the economic downturn, and the percentage involved with a cause dropped from 60% to 53% from 2010 to this year, the only decline among the 16 countries surveyed.

In contrast, personal involvement in causes in China rose to 94% from 89%, while it also grew significantly in Brazil (55% to 65%) and in Germany (39% to 48%) during that time.

US consumers also indicated to Edelman for the first time that the responsibility of taking on societal issues should fall on private citizens and not the government by a rate of 35% to 22%.

However, all other countries surveyed felt the government should play a leading role, said Carol Cone, global practice chair for the Business and Social Purpose unit at Edelman.

“We feel that the government has truly let us down. We see the gridlock on the federal level and feel that it's up to people like me,” Cone said, about the consumer's mindset.

Edelman also launched the Business and Social Purpose practice this week. The firm's eighth practice group, it will incorporate CSR and global sustainability work from across the agency. Cone joined Edelman in 2010 after running her own eponymous agency for three decades.

The findings indicate there is an opportunity for brands to help consumers connect with good causes. Brands can help to make involvement in social issues easier and more aligned with the core needs consumers have, such as jobs, hunger, education, and healthcare, according to the study.

Edelman found that brands aligning themselves with good causes are also earning consumers' dollars and support. Nearly half of consumers surveyed bought a brand at least monthly that supports a cause, up 47% from 2010. More than half of consumers (56%) believe CEOs should create innovative products that are socially responsible and 55% say chief executives should publicly support societal issues.

“It's no longer just enough to cut prices or hold a benefit,” Cone said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to take the lead and educate potential clients.”

Mitch Markson, who recently left Edelman to join Ogilvy PR Worldwide, founded goodpurpose.  

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